The second half of the MLB season begins this weekend, with the Braves taking on the White Sox. This is where the picture of each team begins to become much more clear. The Braves may be the best team in baseball right now, but the trade deadline can completely change the outlook of the league, just look at what happened a couple of years ago in this very city.
I did this exercise a month ago, but a couple of things have changed. Most notably, the top guy on my list — Aroldis Chapman — has already been traded to the Rangers. There are also several more teams that look like potential sellers now.
Once again, my trade deadline targets will be tailored to the Braves. They don’t have many needs, and they don’t have the farm system capable of landing an All-Star with multiple years of control, so all of that will be considered in the rankings.
10. Lance Lynn
I don’t think the Braves need to add a starter with Max Fried nearing a return, but if they wanted to be safe, Lynn is a veteran arm with high upside that could contribute in the playoffs. The White Sox are going to sell, and Lynn could be the first go, given he’s on a one year deal with a club option for next season. Lynn has been abysmal this season, boasting a 6.03 ERA. However, he has a track record of incredible success and has been much better of late. His last time out against the Blue Jays, he struck out 11 over seven scoreless innings. He also owns a 2.86 FIP over his last four starts.
9. Daniel Bard
Bard is having another fantastic season for the Rockies, posting an outstanding 1.76 ERA. However, his 5.07 FIP and much lower strikeout rate than last year are concerning. I wouldn’t mind the Braves taking a chance on him, but severe regression could be in line.
8. Jordan Hicks
The Cardinals were expected by almost everyone to win a weak NL Central. Instead, they find themselves in last place with nearly no hope to make the playoffs. They are going to sell, and Jordan Hicks should interest some teams because of his stuff. He features a 101 MPH sinker and is striking out 13.5 batters per nine. However, he also is one of the worst pitchers in baseball at giving up free passes. Given Hicks is on the final year of his deal, he’s not going to cost much prospect capital. It might be worth it for a team like a Braves to take a gamble on his upside.
Another White Sox arm, Giolito has been terrific this season to the tune of a 3.45 ERA, 9.4 K/9, and 2.8 fWAR. He’s on the last year of his deal, so it’s almost certain he will be traded. If the Braves wanted to ensure their rotation will not be an issue, Giolito would be the perfect target.
Since 2021, Graveman has been one of the best set up men in baseball. He’s having another terrific season for the White Sox, boasting a 2.93 ERA and also comes with another year of control.
5. Seth Lugo
Braves fans should be familiar with Lugo from his long stint with the Mets. He signed a one-year deal with the Padres this past offseason that comes with a $7.5 million player option for 2024, which he will almost certainly decline, given his success this season. I like Lugo because of his versatility. The Padres offered him a chance to start, and he’s been spectacular, recording a 3.39 ERA. However, for most of his career, he has been a reliever. Those type of hybrid players can be extremely valuable in the postseason, and the Braves could find a role for him.
4. David Bednar
I’m including Bednar because he fits everything the Braves desire and could be available. He’s one of the best closers in baseball and comes with three more years of control. Anthopoulos loves cost-controlled assets, but so does the rest of the league, meaning his price tag will be sky high, and the Pirates hold all the leverage. I don’t think the Braves have the prospect capital to make a deal work.
3. Scott Barlow
The Royals have already traded Aroldis Chapman, and one would think Barlow is next. He’s having a down year for his standards, recording a 4.09 ERA, but he’s still striking out 12.0 batters per nine, and his FIP suggests severe positive regression is coming. Barlow also comes with another year of control, which should make him a top target for the Braves.
2. Josh Hader
After a surprisingly down year in 2022, Hader is back to being the best closer in baseball, boasting 1.08 ERA and 13.5 K/9. If the Padres fall out of the playoff race, he will be one of the most coveted relievers in the game. It’s not in the Braves MO to give up prospects for rentals, but Hader might just be worth it to put the team over the top.
Jansen is another new name on this list, and I would absolutely love to have him back. The Red Sox aren’t out of the wild card race, but they are a few years away from seriously contending, and their front office knows that. If they lose any more ground, Boston will sell, and Jansen will be a top target. He’s been damn good for the Red Sox this season and has experienced a 2 MPH uptick in velocity across all of his pitches. Adding him back as a closer would give the Braves the best bullpen in baseball.
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